ASSAP: Paranormal Research
ASSAP: Paranormal Education
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Maurice TownsendWelcome to the ASSAP paranormal blog! Though this blog is aimed at anyone interested in the paranormal, it will be of particular interest to the paranormal research community. Updated frequently, but not regularly (don't expect something new every day!), it covers any paranormal topic, as well as highlighting recent changes to the ASSAP website.

Whenever new information becomes available on a subject ASSAP covers, it is added to the relevant pages of the website straight away. So, just because you've read a page, don't assume it will still be exactly the same when you next look. That way the ASSAP website remains an up to date research resource.

The photo (above right, pic by Val Hope) is the ASSAP blogger himself, out looking for anomalies wherever they are to be found, so that you can read about them here. To contact the ASSAP blog, email here.

Important note: If anything in this blog does not make sense, try following the links in text! If it still doesn't make sense, that's probably my fault ...

Previous blog pages ... (including ghosts, UFOs, poltergeists, flying rods, miracles, orbs, hypnotic regression, big cats, vampires, near sleep experiences, premonitions, shadow ghosts, paranormal photos, auras, river monsters and dozens of other subjects)

NB: WDTHDWP = 'what does this have to do with the paranormal'

29 September: Amplified hearing - yes it could be real!

Crows in a treeRegular readers will be aware of the strange 'amplified noise' phenomenon reported by MA (my acquaintance who experiences microsleep with REM - MWR). Briefly, MWRs produce experiences which could easily be reported as paranormal but are natural in origin. They affect a small percentage of the population, usually those with certain sleep disorders.

The 'amplified noise' phenomenon consists of sound apparently being heard more loudly than when fully awake during some MWR episodes. I have not, so far, been able to decide if the phenomenon actually amplifies real sounds heard at the time or is purely dream content produced by MA's brain. The latest evidence (see here) suggests that it might indeed by amplifying real sounds. But I've had trouble finding any other similar phenomena. Until now.

I recently recalled an incident I had once when I had my ears syringed to remove wax. After the procedure everything was very loud, painfully so. This extremely loud effect continued for a few hours but gradually my hearing returned to normal. This is clear evidence that the brain and/or ear are indeed able modify the sensitivity of our hearing. So it is entirely plausible that MA really is hearing real external sounds with the 'volume turned up' (by the brain/ear) during certain MWR episodes.

I was prompted to think about this by an article in this week's New Scientist. It described research which showed that people can process language when in REM sleep. Whether speech heard in REM sleep is amplified I've no idea. Nevertheless it raises the possibility of people gaining sound information from their environment when asleep.

Consider the following scenario. Someone (lets's call him X) falls asleep in front of the TV and eventually enters REM sleep. Suppose that, during this time, a documentary comes on about some obscure episode from history. When X wakes he remembers none of this. Then, weeks later X is watching a TV quiz when a question comes up about the very same obscure historical episode described in the documentary he slept through. X finds himself able to answer the question correctly, even though the panelists on TV cannot. X is utterly baffled because he cannot recall ever hearing about the historical episode before. X wonders if he might be psychic receiving a message from beyond!

I've often found myself answering obscure questions on TV quizzes despite having no idea how I knew the information. I've always assumed it was something I'd picked up somewhere in my life and I've simply forgotten when and where. That is most likely to be the answer, particularly with my terrible memory. But I now also have to consider the possibility that I don't remember how I know something because I only ever heard it when I was asleep!

One could describe a psychic as "someone who supplies information, on a particular subject, that they were not previously consciously aware they had" (see here). Some people may think they are psychic when actually they have a terrible memory for context or have heard stuff in their sleep!.

27 September: Shadow ghost

ShadowMy attention was recently drawn to a curious phenomenon. It was early morning, barely light. i could not see what had been described to me at first and thought I'd missed it. But then, there it was! It was a shadow moving slowly, in a roughly circular path, across the surface of a road. The shadow was roughly circular in shape with indistinct edges. It was, perhaps, half a metre in diameter. My first thought was that it might be a shadow thrown by a moth, or a tree branch, near the street light illuminating that section of road. However, there were no trees anywhere near the street light. Also, the shadow was moving too slowly to be a moth, nor was there any hint of flickering that you expect from its wings. So, a shadow ghost then!

I was incredibly lucky to have a pair of binoculars to hand, so I turned them on the street light. At first I could see nothing unusual. Then I saw it - a large insect walking across the refractor (the transparent cover below the bulb) of the street lamp. The insect was maybe close in size to a dragonfly but I'm not sure what species it was (possibly a large crane fly). The fact that it was walking (rather than flying) over the refractor explained how it could move slowly without any fluttering.

Without binoculars I could never have identified the source of this shadow ghost phenomenon with any certainty. Before looking through the binoculars I hadn't considered the idea of a walking insect. And that is a central problem with so many reports on anomalous phenomena. When witnesses only have a brief naked eye view of something strange, it is highly likely to remain a mystery simply through lack of relevant information.

20 September: Could we see ghosts on demand?

ShadowOne of the things that has struck me down the years is the sheer elusiveness of anomalous phenomena. They seldom, if ever, turn up when expected. Instead, witnesses are usually caught completely by surprise. It is a quality that makes these phenomena incredibly difficult to study. If only we could see anomalous phenomena in demand.

Take ghosts. Unlike UFOs, at least ghosts have a tendency to crop up repeatedly in the same location. The trouble is, you never exactly when they are going to appear. When I used to go on ghost vigils I didn't see a single apparition, despite many long nights spent at haunted locations. Statistically, that's not surprising. If a ghost has been seen a handful of times over a decade, for instance, the chances of seeing it on any particular night are slim. At least that's the usual explanation.

But I now think the elusiveness of ghosts has a different cause. Investigation has revealed that many ghost sightings are caused by such things as misperception, hallucination and coincidence. All of these will produce unpredictable sightings. For instance, misperception is highly sensitive to viewing conditions. And coincidences, like seeing someone in historical costume on their way to a re-enactment, are both rare and unpredictable.

So, if we know what causes many ghost sightings, can't we mess around with the variables involved to make ghosts appear on demand? I thought I'd accidentally managed that with the door ghost (see here). However, though this misperception ghost appeared quite frequently, I could never predict when. That's because I first had to FORGET about it for it to reappear! It is one of the few times when having a terrible memory actually proved useful. When the ghost DID appear I had just seconds to remember my pre-planned experiment before the apparition disappeared. And now the door ghost only puts in sporadic appearances like that reported recently (here).

What about hallucinations? My acquaintance (MA) who experiences MWR saw a ghost on as train once (see here) but reports that such apparitions are rare despite having had innumerable MWRs. MA could not recall anything different about that particular experience that might suggest a way to make it happen again. As for coincidences, they are uncontrollable by definition!

So the most promising way forward has to be with misperception, given that the door ghost showed it is possible to have repeatable experiences. I have also had some quite prolonged misperception experiences showing they can be quite robust in the right circumstances. The main problem is that the witness must not be expecting to see a ghost!

So my new ambition, alongside the permanent photographic misperception (see here) is a reproducible ghost! Will it be difficult? Yes!

15 September: Amplified noise - could it be real?

Crows in a treeMA (my acquaintance who experiences microsleep with REM - MWR) was at a lecture recently. Though it was an interesting talk, MA still had a few MWRs. During two of these, separated by seconds, MA experienced the curious 'amplified noise' phenomenon again (see here for background). As in previous incidents, MA heard sound apparently amplified during brief MWR episodes lasting a couple of seconds at a time.

MA was struggling to hear the speaker whose voice was not loud. However, during the MWRs the voice became louder and perfectly understandable. This much has happened before (here). However, on this occasion MA realized that the amplified words heard fitted perfectly into the content of the talk.

Unfortunately, because MA couldn't hear the speaker well outside MWRs it was not possible to say if the 'amplified' bits fitted EXACTLY into what was being said. This leaves open the possibility that the 'amplified' words were not what the speaker actually said but just MA's brain imagining likely ones to insert. However, it does nudge the evidence a little towards the possibility that noise really IS being amplified somehow in the MWR state!

Could sounds actually get 'amplified' in all dreams, both MWRs and normal night dreams? There is a big difference between normal dreams and MWRs. Normal dreams usually start well after the experiencer has gone to sleep. With MWRs the dream state starts straight away and tends to continue with a version of reality (sometimes with minor changes like the addition of a ghost - see here). So any differences, like 'amplified noise' will be apparent to the MWR experiencer straight away. By contrast, in conventional dreams there is no continuation of reality, so amplified noise would not be noticed. My point is that 'amplified noise' may be a normal, if rare, phenomenon in all dreaming but it hasn't been noticed much before.

Anyone experiencing MWRs who is not aware of their natural origin might be tempted to see 'amplified noise' as some kind of paranormal phenomenon. As to how the brain might achieve such a trick, it's open to speculation. And if it ISA a real trick, what other odd phenomena may occur within MWRs?

7 September: Anniversary ghosts and an unexpected return!

ShadowIt's back! I was at 'that door' recently (see here for background) and suddenly realised there was a dark, somewhat menacing, figure standing just behind me. Sure enough, it was the door ghost, a misperception with the same cause as in the past. It was a big surprise as I haven't thought about the ghost in months.

I reported the long term disappearance of the door ghost back in May (here). This is the first sighting since February, some 7 months ago. I suggested then that the ghost had vanished because I approach 'the door' from a different angle these days. So, have I changed back to my old approach direction? No, I haven't? So why has the ghost reappeared?

If the ghost has reappeared despite the new route, something else must have changed. One crucial element with misperception is lighting. I've noted that similar misperceptions often recur at the same time each day for a few days each year (provided the weather is also similar). This is because the sun follows a slightly different track across the sky every day through the year. So, at any given location, the sun will be at the same position in the sky at the same time on the same day each year. Thus, the lighting will be the same for that time and date each year, subject to weather conditions. Given how sensitive misperception is to lighting conditions, the same (misperception) ghost may be seen at the same location at the same date and time every year. It is possible that the door ghost now requires such specific lighting to appear on my my new route to the door. In the past, using a different route, the lighting was not so crucial.

This got me thinking. There are said to be some ghosts that appear regularly on a particular date each year - anniversary ghosts. Could misperception explain at least some of these reports? It seems possible, if the ghost is seen outside in daylight. The same factors would not apply at night for a couple of reasons. Firstly, much outdoor lighting at night is provided by fixed street lights. Secondly, the moon does not appear in the same position in the sky at the same time on the same date each year.

Even if it turns out that the reappearance of the door ghost has nothing to do with lighting on a specific day, the idea that misperception could explain at least some anniversary ghosts remains valid. Having missed the door ghost I'm glad it's back, even if it's only a fleeting visit.

5 September: Ghost bird

Yellow branchI came around a corner and immediately something caught my eye. It was a yellow bird in a tree. But it quickly vanished! So, a ghost bird then. I photographed the scene and you can see it here (right). The 'bird' is the yellow object in the centre of the frame. Interestingly, I saw the 'bird' again when I examined its photo for the first time. So it was that rarity, a photographable misperception. Such misperceptions, when they take on the appearance of human figures, can easily generate ghost reports.

I suspect that most people, when viewing this photo, will see no bird and be mystified as to how I ever saw one. And I think that is significant. I started noticing misperceptions a few years ago. At the time I thought it was because I had recently found out how people misperceive all the time. I speculated that this gave my unconscious 'permission' to notice misperceptions. But now I have a new theory. I think it may be because I'm a birder.

When you go birding a vital skill is being able to spot birds. While most people would find a goose or gull hard to miss, spotting tiny warblers in dense foliage is much more difficult. I believe that looking for birds has made me particularly sensitive to tiny movements in foliage or objects that stand out from their background, like the yellow 'bird' here. The bird is actually a lichen covered branch. Being the only yellow bit in the scene it stands out strongly to me and my brain straight away thinks 'bird'! I suspect most non-birders would walk past the same scene and not even notice the lichen, far less see a bird.

I'll have to work out if there is any way of testing my theory. However, I think it makes sense.

Last month's (August) website figures are an average of 15261 hits per day. This is up on the previous month's 14516 daily average.

© Maurice Townsend 2016


Previous blog pages ...

  • Aug 2016 (including figure vanishes, strange music, phantom squirrel, fame month again)
  • Jul 2016 (including robot on wall, ghostly hooded figure, new house effect, transparent figures in photos)
  • Jun 2016 (including odd UFO, amplified hearing, alternate realities, strange stick figure on roof)
  • May 2016 (including farewell to the door ghost, restaurant ghost, invisible book, shrinking object)
  • Apr 2016 (including double UFO photo, strange animal, amplified hearing, fame month)
  • Mar 2016 (including time slip, strange brown blob, pig becomes horse, ghosts out or in focus)
  • Feb 2016 (including identifiable ghost, ghost in odd pose, leaning ghost, door ghost returns, ideal witness)
  • Jan 2016 (including too strange to be noticed, vanishing man, giant glowing pig, UFO reports)
  • Dec 2015 (including strange object with a tail, crouching ghost, scurrying ghost, sea serpents, false stepping)
  • Nov 2015 (including paranormal object movement, premonitions., distance of sighted ghosts, soundproof barrier)
  • Oct. 2015 (including monk and nun ghosts, white ghosts, red ghosts, touching ghosts, life going fast forward)
  • Sep 2015 (including glowing transparent ghost, unsettling ghost, insect ghost, UFO in clouds, linear photo anomalies)
  • Aug 2015 (including alien robot, white UFO, unlikely prediction comes true, animal ghosts. streaks in photos)
  • July 2015 (including coincidence versus precognition, paranormal smells, music and ghosts)
  • June 2015 (including interactive ghost, presence on train, orbs, spade wings)
  • May 2015 (including ghosts seen during vigils, mystery flash, sense of presence, transparent ghost, daytime UFO)
  • Apr 2015 (including UFO behind trees, orbs behind anything, possible cause of road ghost sightings, white-hatted ghost)
  • Mar 2015 (including moving object looking motionless, retreating ghost, IFO turning into a UFO)
  • Feb 2015 (including best ghost yet, how things vanish, purple thing, ghost in inappropriate attire)
  • Jan 2015 (including winter insect orbs, ghost from a train, strangeness threshold, flashes in the sky)
  • Dec 2014 (including lumpy horizon, green blob, strange lights, orbs, white floating thing)
  • Nov 2014 (including doors opening by themselves, haunting flashes, sense of presence, formant noise)
  • Oct 2014 (including animal ghosts, tricorn-hatted figure, seeing 0.23 celebrities monthly, dancing ghost)
  • Sep 2014 (including paper defying gravity, low flying UFOs, photographing ghosts, moving still photos)
  • Aug 2014 (including figure on a pillar, orbs still worth studying, ghost objects, shadow ghost)
  • July 2014 (including yellow orb, teleportation, ghostly whispers, owl, strange announcement)
  • June 2014 (including hand in a tree, blurry flying object, white alien, strange pattern on a dragonfly)
  • May 2014 (including single witness UFOs, ghosts vanishing, anomalies seen through gaps, rock face, creeping doppelgangers)
  • Apr 2014 (including unrecognized ghosts, odd UFO photo, do short-sighted people see ghosts, man with no face)
  • Mar 2014 (including unusual shaped UFO, ghost on a train, ghost presence, vampires, ghost calling)
  • Feb 2014 (including confusion, daylight orbs, haunted milk bottle, ghost on a bridge, too obvious explantations)
  • Jan 2014 (including colliding orbs, ball lightning, de-orbing, ghost mouse, mysterious flashes, ghost misidentification)
  • Dec 2013 (including popping orbs, new shadow ghost, ignoring a ghostly hand, dust turning into orbs videoed)
  • Nov 2013 (including hearing voices, blurry ghosts, mirrors and ghosts, coincidences, UFOs near airports)
  • Oct 2013 (including fairy photo, mist ghost, yeti, premonitions, orbs are NOT dust, how hauntings start)
  • Sep 2013 (including moving sticks, targets affecting odds in psi tests, shape shifting, not photographing ghosts)
  • Aug 2013 (including ghosts in plain view, mystery photo, seeing faces, ear pointing, shadow presence, time distortion)
  • July 2013 (including floating ghosts, on being a ghost, ghost ducks, follow that ghost - yes, ghosts galore)
  • June 2013 (including transparent ghosts, distance of UFOs, other stuff going on while witnessing anomalous phenomena)
  • May 2013 (including ghost seen AND photographed, time distortion, reproducing anomalous phenomena)
  • Apr 2013 (including door ghost moving, UFOs from a train, missing time, reality glitches, EVP without E, weird photos)
  • Mar 2013 (including witness credibility, distraction to see ghosts, movie in real life, photo or witness)
  • Feb 2013 (including possible orb comeback, OBEs go mainstream, walking ghost, feelings without touch, object movement)
  • Jan 2013 (including a big problem with ghost vigils, time distortions, cryptids, snow ghosts and rods, causes of hauntings)
  • Dec 2012 (including mysterious injuries, ghosts versus people, voice from nowhere, experimenting with a ghost)
  • Nov 2012 (including reflected ghost, isolated EVPs, ghosts talking to each other, invisible presences)
  • Oct 2012 (including ghostly presence, shadow ghost, strange pigeons, window ghosts, hallucinations)
  • Sep 2012 (including yellow grass, weird waterfalls, vanishing buzzard, ghost vigils, slowing down time)
  • Aug 2012 (including seeing unknown animals, glowing lampposts, EMF meters as an accident of history)
  • July 2012 (including turning rods into orbs, psychic insight, making insects spell, glowing eyes, haunting hot spots)
  • June 2012 (including doppelganger mystery, not expecting ghosts, anecdotal evidence, credible witnesses)
  • May 2012 (including lenticular cloud, ghost encounter, ghost train, weird stuff in a tree, van Gogh, resolution)
  • Apr 2012 (including naturalists and ghosts, odd feelings during OBE, wrong kind of sound, voice from nowhere)
  • Mar 2012 (including jogging and ghosts, misty ghosts, image noise, full spectrum photography, EVP of machines)
  • Feb 2012 (including ghost car, analyzing anomalous photos, ghost at rock concert, OBEs and motion sickness)
  • Jan 2012 (including stopping flying rods, photographing fairies, time warp, a ghost tie, ghostly fingers, New Year UFOs)
  • Dec 2011 (including missing time, improving ghost vigils, anomalous photos, ghostly faces, seeing fiction)
  • Nov 2011 (including OBE video games, EVP and VLF, whatshisname, paranormal misconceptions, invisible ghosts)
  • Oct 2011 (including smartphone ghosts, similacrum, smell of ghosts, morphing UFOs, slowing time)
  • Sep 2011 (including tidy ghost, MADS, transparent ghost, big announcement, ghost fox, not alone)
  • Aug 2011 (including cold spots, spectral hound, triangular UFO, ghost photos, rushing air and being dragged)
  • July 2011 (including Hilary Evans, Harry Potter, witness investment, bias in paranormal research, TV detectives)
  • June 2011 (including ASSAP @ 30, detecting lies, hyper-vigilence, strange thunder)
  • May 2011 (including ASSAP @ 30, lone shoes, flying rods, bias, early memories, strange floating object)
  • Apr 2011 (including royal wedding, mirror touch synaesthesia, sleep disorders, new ghost sighting)
  • Mar 2011 (including roof heron, Atlantis, first time witnesses, comparing film to digital paranormal photos)
  • Feb 2011 (including predicting the future, ghost bird, time slip, weird floor, what do we really know about paranormal)
  • Jan 2011 (including the ghost hunting boom, orange UFO, EVP experiment, extreme normality)
  • Dec 2010 (including microsleeps and road ghosts, shadow ghost in snow, lack of ghosts in photos, anthropomorphism)
  • Nov 2010 (including EMF meters, auras, evidence for precognition, sensitisation, the ghost hunting boom)
  • Oct 2010 (including black orbs, UnConvention, mirror visions, levitation, flying rods and orbs)
  • Sep 2010 (including a ring tone from the roof, shadow ghost video, time slip explanation, daylight orb video)
  • Aug 2010 (including Parisian UFO, sense of presence, SLI, consulting experts, misperception)
  • Jul 2010 (including Sherlock Holmes as a paranormal investigator, haunting sounds, what ARE hallucinations)
  • Jun 2010 (including the Loch Ness Monster, gorilla video, getting ghost stories the wrong way round)
  • May 2010 (including ball lightning, Wem ghost photo, waking up twice, eyewitnesses, Robin Hood)
  • Apr 2010 (including causes of road ghosts, new orb evidence, bird UFOs, UFO photo, not quite seeing is believing)
  • Mar 2010 (including experiencing hypnagogia, consciousness, belief, prolonged misperception, doppelganger)
  • Feb 2010 (including visual continuity errors - AKA ghosts, near sleep experiences on trains, spontaneous OOBEs)
  • Jan 2010 (including intelligent oil, SLI, inducing OOBEs, orange UFOs, the bleak midwinter)
  • Dec 2009 (including review of research in the noughties, pretty orbs, imperceptions, river monster)
  • Nov 2009 (including EVP without a recorder, demons and entities, why only some people see ghosts)
  • Oct 2009 (including grey ghost, near sleep experiences, a triangular UFO and seeing David Beckham)
  • Sep 2009 (including latent memory, Tufted Puffin, Bermuda Triangle and garden poltergeist)
  • Aug 2009 (including official UFO files, partial ghosts, flying rods and miracles)
  • Jul 2009 (including garden poltergeist, big cat video, orbs and hypnotic regression)
  • Jun 2009 (including thoughts from nowhere, shadow ghosts, premonitions and metallic UFO)
  • May 2009 (including analysing paranormal photos, making ghosts and ghost lore)
  • Apr 2009 (including phantom bird, choice blindness and grass that gets up and walks away)
  • Mar 2009 (including deja vu, ghostly mists, weird UFO photo, white ghosts)
  • Feb 2009 (including hidden memories, coincidences, auras and window UFOs)
  • Jan 2009 (including animals sensing ghosts, vampires, flying rod season and a haunted path)
  • Dec 2008
  • Nov 2008
  • Oct 2008
  • Sep 2008
  • Aug 2008
  • July 2008
  • June 2008
  • May 2008
  • April 2008
  • March 2008
  • February 2008
  • January 2008
  • December 2007
  • November 2007
  • October 2007
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